We left Churchill on the VIA rail train at 20.00 hrs on a Saturday in November,and had already booked a sleeper cabin for the two day,two night journey. The cold conditions requires the locomotives to run all day at Churchills station, simply to keep the cars warm and the locomotives mechanics from freezing up.The railway station is virtually in central Churchill so at no time are you a few minutes drive away. The building is of historic interest and is manned most of the time by Parks Canada staff, Via railway people only arriving at the time of arrival or departure of a train. Parks Canada have a small exhibition running at the station whos architecture would look equally at home in Switzerland as it does in Manitoba.The train is painfully slow all the way down to Thompson manly due to the uneven rails, plus the fact that being mostly single track, we were required to give way to frieght trains and on one occasion this meant a stop in the middle of the night of almost two hours. Although cold outside, the train was comfortable, but warm food was reduced to a basic choice of just four dishes ie Sheperds pie,Chicken Dijon with rice,meatballs with herbs, and pasta with vegetables all at $7 each on both days for lunch and for dinner
For some odd reason toast is not available nor virtually any hot food for breakfast other than sausage meat in a bun ( Jimmey Dean Sandwich) The train does however make a schedule stop in Thompson for between one and two hours which generally gives ample time to walk the mile or so into town to a number of local restauants for a hot lunch. We found one of Manitoba's Chicken Chef chain where you can get substantial food at very keen prices before reboarding the train for day two of our journey.( Read warning on my Thompson page)
Although a dinning car is available, it really has very little to offer and is used in the main as a place to buy and drink stewed coffee at $2 each
The train ride up to Churchill from Winnipeg is LONG (almost two days) and SLOW (because the tracks are infrequently maintenanced, so they are crooked, and the train could derail at high speeds); however, it is also potentially much cheaper if you are not staying in a sleeper. We paid just over $300 CAN round-trip. You have a good chance of getting two seats to yourself that you can lie down on for the night. The train also offers some nice views of the landscape as it transitions from prairie to forest to tundra. I wouldn't be keen to do it a second time, but I'm glad I did it once, had the experience, and saved quite a bit of money (flights are $1000+).
If you have a car, you can also drive to Thompson and catch the train from there, which would save you a day on the train. I would recommend this more in the summer months, when you can make a nice road trip out of it and road conditions are better.
Churchill is isolated. I think the nearest road is in Thompson, 150 miles or so to the south. A railroad goes all the way to Churchill.
So the only way to get to Churchill is to fly there or take a train. Three friends and I flew in a small private airplane, from North Dakota, but I think the airline prices are in the neighborhood of 500 - 750 $CAN from Winnipeg.
I met someone who had enjoyed the train trip but said that it was a long haul - about 36 hours from Winnipeg.
An airline named Calm Air and one more I cant remember the name of flies to Churchill.
The Tundra Buggy Terminal is 20+km outside town in the middle of nowhere. It’s very bleak and desolate. Getting there seems a lot further as the school bus really is just built for children whose legs are quite a few inches shorter than mine. The bus is full so we can’t even spread out. Feeling a little like a sardine and trying not to be grumpy, my sprits soar when we get on board the buggy. It is enormous and there are only 14 in our group. We have enough room to use a bench seat each, and the middle section is wide, allowing for easy movement from side to side when spotting bears, which hopefully we will do.
School buses are used to ferry passengers to the Tundra Buggy Terminal. Yesterday a woman fell on the ice and fractured her ankle, so today she is unable to climb on board the school bus. She still wants to go out to see the polar bears, so several locals carry her from the hotel to a waiting 4WD truck and again from the truck to the buggy the other end. Such service!
If you are traveling by air from Canada back into the U.S. you will clear customs in Canada. I made the mistake of scheduling a 2 hour layover to allow time for customs at the U.S. airport only to find that you clear customs before boarding your flight from Winnipeg back into the U.S.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International is one of the busiest airports in the world, with more than a half million takeoffs and landings each year. For the last three years, an international traveler survey has found MSP to be the Best Large Airport in North America. MSP is currently ranked among the top 5 worldwide for overall customer satisfaction.
I have traveled around the world and been through many airports and this is definitely one of the best in the WORLD. And everyone working at the airport is very friendly and helpful. The restaurants offer great food and there is plenty to see and do in the airport during a layover. So if you need to connect to go to Winnipeg, this is definitely the best.
You do get the chance to take a chopper flight over the tundra and it really is marvellous. We were put up on the tundra (watch out for bears!) and saw the land from above. A unique and wonderful way to see the bears.
We took the train from Winnipeg to Churchill, it was great but do book a cabin with bed if you can (they are limited). The beds are made up overday and you have chairs to lounge in and watch the countryside pass by. The cabins have douche and toilet. There are coaches with seats but it is long trip so sleeping in better in a bed.
The only way to get in and out of Churchill to see the polar bears is via charter jet from Winnipeg or Canadian Railway. The tundra buggy company provides the charter to/from Winnipeg.
The train is the way to go to Churchill.
VIA's "Hudson Bay" leaves three times a week from Winnipeg for the 36-hour trip to Churchill.
This is our tour bus, it took us from the station and back to the airport, plus out to the tundra everyday.